Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 33: Surrender
~Author's Note: Good morning guys! Sorry this one's a bit late. Also, it is similar in content to the last chapter, but sometimes moments are too important to both Beth and Daryl not to see it from each POV. This might not be as powerful as Daryl's experience (IMO), but it is a good chapter for Beth, beautiful in its own way, and so necessary to her story going forward. Hope you enjoy!~
Daryl was beyond fighting her, past letting her indulge herself with the idea that she might succeed in breaking free from him. Beth could feel it in the way his grip tightened on her. The harder Beth struggled, the quickershe was losing. Her frenzied state gave way to desperation...fear...despair...when Daryl forced her back to him, trying to drag her shirt up with a rough hand...forcing her to give. He wouldn't have been so rough if she wasn't fighting him, but Beth didn't have a choice. Her hands bound, chained above her head, that's how the bastard controlled her. Cut her. Daryl, he didn't need chains, he was strong enough on his own. And she was helpless to stop him, just as she couldn't stop Brother Allerton. Beth's breaths were coming short and painful, from the exertion of fighting Daryl, from the memories...the images flashing in her head, and the knowledge that Daryl was going to win. He was going to see...see what was never going away...what would never heal. Beth couldn't bear it...panicking...feeling like she was dying on the inside. She knew the light and love would never leave Daryl's eyes, but it would be a lie...and she'd felt that light leave her own eyes, when there had barely been a vestige of her left...even the will to live gone. The only fight that remained in her was the fight to die as who she was...well, what was left of her...
Beth backed away slowly as he stalked her, retreating one step for each Brother Allerton advanced on her, until she backed herself into a corner, bumping against the wall with nowhere else to go. He was slow in approaching her, making soothing sounds to calm her, but Beth's breaths were quick and sharp and painful...the adrenaline coursing through her veins, sensing the danger in him. Her instinct to live was too strong not to fight. She thought she was strong enough, maybe she could even just slip past him...strong enough to break free, but she was hurt, slowed by injuries and fatigue. Slammed hard down to the floor, the weight of him crushing her against the rough concrete, her ribs felt like they shattered into a million pieces. Beth tried to suck the cool air in through her mouth while his hand pressed mercilessly against the side of her face, holding her head to the ground. Breathing suddenly didn't feel all that worth it anymore, Allerton's free hand ripping at her dress, the buttons pinging under the force until the cold air licked at the naked flesh of her back. Beth struggled, but it was pointless. Maybe if she wasn't hurt, it would have made a difference, but she still fought because she wasn't going to accept this...she would rather die...rather have him kill her than...some fates were worse than death, and she had nothing to live for.
He was able to wrest her dress off with so little effort, turning her under him, pinning her hands above her head.
"Calm yourself angel. This is the Lord Our God's will. Let me look at you."
It took everything Beth had to still herself, to stop fighting, and when she did, she knew whatever her next move was, she had to make it count. His lecherous eyes on her turned Beth's stomach, grateful only that he'd left her the modesty of her worn bra and threadbare underwear. He wasn't pinning her so hard now, letting up and moving away so he could see what he wanted to see. His hand running down her side, even as soft as his touch was, sent waves of pain through her body. Beth was just so broken. She was ashamed she wasn't stronger, tried to hold it back, but the small whimper still escaped her lips.
"Shhh, Beth." He said her name, the way he said it...the way it rolled off his tongue made it even worse, his hand coming up to touch her cheek, a gesture of comfort and affection.
It repulsed her...she had to fight the overpowering urge to cringe away. Why couldn't Daryl have touched her like this...? Daryl was dead.
Brother Allerton already beat her once today...for denying he was God, before he dragged her out in front of his congregation, claiming she was his new made wife. Those people...she cried for help, but no one moved to help her. Some shifted uncomfortably where they sat in their pews but did nothing, some looked and smiled, choosing not to see that she was beaten and bloody. There could be no mercy in their eyes because they didn't see her as she was; they saw her as Allerton told them to see...an angel, but she was a broken angel in chains. The rest of them didn't see her at all, so fixated on the false prophet profaning the house of God. But God didn't live here anymore. He couldn't.
And Beth wasn't stupid. She knew what was going to happen when darkness fell and he dragged her back, closing the door behind them. Wife. She said no words, made no vows, but that is what he said all the same. She knew, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. No one would save her. Beth couldn't even save herself. Now, here they were, but even if it didn't matter, she was going to fight to the bitter end, fight her fate like she knew Daryl did even if it wouldn't save her. Daryl died so she could have a chance. Beth couldn't waste his sacrifice by laying down and giving up.
"As the Lord Our God created Eve for the comfort and companionship of Adam, so too has he released you from the heavens to be my bride amidst our dark world. Will you cometh to me this night as a bride cometh to the bridegroom?"
Until this point, Beth hadn't been entirely sure just how insane Allerton was. He was crazy, no doubt, and he put on a good show for his flock, lots of charismatic leaders did. But no...he was mad, entirely lost to the realty of the world. He spoke with such conviction and fervor in his words that his delusions were reality to him. He was looking her in the eye now, waiting. Did he really expect her to say yes, to give herself to him? He was a monster, and Beth answered the only way she could, drawing her knee up quick, ramming him sharp and hard in the groin.
For a second, she was free, scrambling out from under him where he was doubled over, groaning in pain. Beth made it to her feet, made to run, but the hand grabbing and clenching tight around her ankle jerked her feet right out from under her. Her head smacked the floor with a crack, hard enough she saw stars, hard enough the world went fuzzy and she couldn't move, but not hard enough that the world went black. Beth wished it would've with what would come next, the punishment she could only imagine that would follow. Allerton had recovered, crouched low next to her, fingers dug into her hair, jerking her head up, forcing Beth to look at him.
"Will you cometh to me this night as a bride cometh to the bridegroom?"
Beth cringed this time, feeling his acrid, hot breath on her face. She was just trying to breathe, trying to calm herself the best she could so her voice would come out...
"I'm not you're wife."
The fire in his eyes flared at her fervent denial of him. Maybe she was still strong enough to make a difference, as little as that difference may be, show Daryl she was strong...a fighter...if he was watching her from wherever he was.
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as you do in the sight of the Lord Our God."
Nothing. She wouldn't give him anything.
"I am as God to you!" He screamed, jerking her head harder.
He was rattled...rattled by her, a beaten, broken girl who barely had power over her own fate. There was comfort in that knowledge and in knowing what she said next was the undeniable truth.
"You are not God." She knew saying it would bring pain...she said to him once before...but she didn't regret it then, and she wouldn't regret it now.
Beth wasn't capable of smiling, but she felt it on the inside, even when the blows started. But she hated herself for crying out as he beat her. She didn't just whimper, she didn't just cry, she screamed. She wasn't as strong as she thought after all. Daryl...he would be ashamed, but the darkness came to hide her weakness.
She heard it first before she saw it, that distinctive noise of a knife being drawn across a whetstone. Her head was beating the march of a war drum, but she still heard it, then saw it...saw Brother Allerton at work sharpening the knife's edge when her eyelids finally fluttered open. Beth didn't understand the tightness...the tension she was feeling in her chest, the weight born heavy by her arms, the instability, her feet barely touching the ground. Looking up, she saw the horrible reality...handcuffed again, this time her arms stretched tight above her, secured over a meat hook dangling on a chain from the ceiling. She struggled, realizing too late it wouldn't make a difference, and the clanking of the metal on metal just drew Allerton's attention to her. He didn't say anything, just looked up at her, acknowledging she was conscious, then focusing again on sharpening the blade.
Beth remembered the first time she heard that noise, saw someone putting a blade to a whetstone. It had been Daryl one night by their fire in that long winter before the prison. The others, it seemed they barely took time to make sure their weapons were loaded when they crashed after running and fighting. But Daryl, every time he had a spare second, he was making sure his hunting knife was razor sharp, making new bolts, testing the strength of the ones he had, running his hands over his crossbow like a lover, knowing every inch of it. Then, the noise had been comforting, Daryl so practiced that he had a steady rhythm set, the blade sliding down one side, turning over his deft hand, sliding up again. Beth appreciated the soothing music of it. Now...this untrained hand sharpening a knife...Beth's breathing was rapid, her heart beating double time...it was going to mean pain. At least whatever he was going to do, the blade would be sharp...at least...
So fixated on his weapon in hand, trembling...waiting...anticipating the torture he was going to inflict, she didn't even notice him drawing back his hand until it made contact with her face. The blow to her cheek didn't make her see stars, but that wasn't what he intended. He wanted her awake for this.
"Keep your innocence. I will not steal it from you. You will gift it to me freely in the end once you are filled with the Lord's light and obey His holy mandate. But I will not suffer your insolence, nor will the Lord Our God."
The second blow was harder. Beth saw it coming, tasted the iron tinge of her warm blood in her mouth, feeling tears stinging at the corners of her eyes.
Not a rapist...but he would break her body, destroy her soul...
He held up the knife, examining it close, running his finger back and forth across the blade...taunting her...trying to terrify her...and it was working. Was this the end? There were things worse than death, but now faced with it, she didn't want to die alone...didn't want to hurt anymore. Allerton moved behind her; she couldn't see him... was he going to slit her throat? Beth's whole body was trembling, wishing he had picked a quicker, kinder way, but it would all be over soon. She tried to still herself...tried to have courage in the end. So afraid, the only thing quieting her soul was that maybe...maybe she would get to see Daryl again. But the cold steel didn't bite into her neck. Instead, Allerton's clammy hand reached around, spanning the space between Beth's ribcage.
"Bruises and broken bones shall heal, but you shall never be free of me."
It was then she felt it, the blade sinking into the side of her back. He held her tight, his hand dug into her stomach as she tried to move away, trapping her. Beth had nowhere to go, biting hard into her lip to muffle her cry. It wasn't a quick slice though, Beth screaming out as the razor sharp edge parted her flesh, drawn across slowly so the wound would be perfect and even. Her skin was stretched so tight that it split further, even after the knife pulled back from it's kiss. It wasn't enough though...wasn't enough that he inflicted this wound...he had to touch her, dragging his fingers through the bloody, stinging path carved into her back. Beth saw it, the crimson staining his fingertips when he came to stand before her. Her blood...her life fresh on his hands.
"I would remind you, sweet child of God, that even angels bleed on Earth." Beth flinched away when he reached out to touch her, drawing a bloody trail down the center of her stomach. "You will bleed for me, one way or another."
Clenching her eyes tight, trying to banish the tears...trying to hide the fear in them, she wasn't fooling anyone...he knew. He wasn't God, but maybe he was right. He was as a god to her. He held her life in his hands, and not just the power to kill her, but the power to make her stay alive.
"One cut for each night you deny your place beside me. You will remember."
The door closed behind him as Allerton left her chained and marked. Opening her eyes, Beth was finally able to let out a shuddering breath, body shaking in fear, pain, tension, under the stress and her own weight. She was weak and powerless. Looking up, not at anything, just up, a whispered plea escaped her lips.
Beth didn't really know what she was pleading for but realized just how useless it all was, remembering...God didn't live here anymore. How could he? Her eyes refocused, locking on the meat hook her handcuffs were secured to. It was rather appropriate, wasn't it? She was nothing more than a carcass left to hang in the butcher shed, except it wasn't her blood that was draining...although that was trickling warm down her back too...it was her soul that was bleeding out. She was just apiece of meat. That was all that would be left of her...
With her last burst of strength, Beth was able to turn back into him, into Daryl, facing him, knowing that if she had any power over him at all...she couldn't fight him...it would be his love for her that made him stop.
"Daryl...please..." Beth's breath caught in her chest as she bit back a sob. "Please stop...don't..."
Going totally still in his arms, Beth conceded that she couldn't fight anymore, her tears burning down her cheeks now, resigned to whatever Daryl chose.
But her submission drew no mercy from Daryl, his face stoic, frozen in the resolve to do what he thought he had to do, no sympathy or emotion. They were at an odd impasse; Beth wasn't fighting, and Daryl was still, but he wasn't moving to let her go, his grip on her so tight her arm was starting to throb. Sympathy, mercy, understanding...those would've been better than what she was seeing in his face...nothing. It was like even though he was looking at her, he wasn't seeing her, his mind somewhere else all together. Beth needed him there with her...needed his comfort, maybe even his sympathy. She had been trying so hard to be strong...but she knew that she needed him now, needing Daryl pulling her tight into his arms. Even though Beth knew something in her would drive her to try to fight him, tell him not to touch her...she wanted it...needed him, needed Daryl to overpower her in this.
Just hug me...hold me...please. Please just don't make me show you...
That wasn't what she got though, watching Daryl's face come alive again, his jaw clenching and cheek twitching under the tension. She didn't see it coming, didn't have time to fight or resist Daryl jerking her roughly to her feet as he rose off the ground where he really had the advantage over her, the full power of his height, weight, and strength, but he didn't need it. Beth already submitted. Daryl only held her for a second more before he turned her loose. She didn't have any time to process at all; it was so abrupt...Daryl went so aggressive, dragging his undershirt over his head. So confused...her nerves tying her stomach in knots...Daryl...what was he doing? Did he want to fuck instead of fight? That made her afraid. She didn't want it that way...in anger...fucking...not after everything. Then Beth hated herself for even thinking that...thinking that of him. This was Daryl...her Daryl. He ripped a man's heart out because he hurt her, and Daryl, he gave her his heart to keep. This was something more, something so much deeper...she just didn't know what it was.
Just standing there, standing so still before her...for her, his breathing so deep and steady that Beth knew he was focusing on it, using it to calm himself. Beth looked at him, thinking about as long as she had known him, as long as the group was together, all the time they were on the run together alone, she had never seen him without his shirt on. It was like that part of him...under his clothes, was a part of himself he guarded so fiercely, kind of like his heart, and there was no reason, not with her. Daryl was strong and so nicely formed, perfect in her eyes even with the circular scar through his side from his own crossbow bolt, a wound Daddy sewed up for him a lifetime ago. He was sculpted bylife, survival, a body made strong by fighting and protecting, the kind of raw, solid power a man should have...a real body, a real man, with real strength, but he hid all the same.
Feeling flushed and warm...and not warm from the fire behind her...Daryl's body was a much needed distraction from the fear that had overtaken her, her gaze lingering down to the beautiful spots where the cuts of his hips were peeking out of the top of his waistband. But whatever she was feeling...the moment, it was all wrong. Something in the way Daryl was holding himself now...so rigid...he looked so fierce and steady...unbreakable, but under that mask, the show he was putting on for her, Daryl was hurting. She could see it in his eyes. She knew what Daryl looked like when he was in pain.
He turned his back on her...turned away from her. What? Why? But in that instant she saw...knew what he had been hiding all along. Beth wished she could've stopped it...stopped it for Daryl's sake...the gasp of horror that escaped her lips, watching his shoulders tighten at her reaction. The scars crossing his back were a worse punishment than she could ever imagine for Daryl, knowing full well who he was...how strong he was. And these wounds...these scars were from before.
""We ain't our scars, Beth. We ain't our scars," voice rough, full of grit, trying to cover the pain, but it was still there.
He was tortured and hurting, but there was truth in his words, in what he said to her. Beth was overcome by a blind, childlike belief welling in her chest, a belief...a hope that their world tried so hard to kill...a belief that maybe Daryl was right. Maybe it didn't matter. The memories and pain weren't going to go away, but maybe...if just between them...none of it mattered. Daryl was scarred, and it made him no less in her eyes. He was a fighter...a survivor. Couldn't she be the same to him? It might be naive, but she wanted to believe it...she needed to believe it so badly.
Beth looked, saw Daryl's demons, and not the winged demons inked down his shoulder and back, but the scars etched deep across the broad expanse of his flesh. Her heart shattered when he flinched away from her touch...Daryl...he was so strong, but he flinched away. Did he flinch because he didn't want her to touch him, didn't want her acknowledging his scars, or because the memory of the pain was still with him? Even if he didn't want to be touched, Daryl suffered through it, letting her, making himself solid and unmovable as Beth's fingers gently followed the lashes cut into his skin...into his soul.
One...two...three...four...Beth stopped herself counting at a half-dozen, and there were still more...so many more. It hurt too much; it hurt more than her own wounds.
Daryl was holding it together, so Beth bit back her sob to be strong for him. She would give him the only strength she had now, the strength of her love. Letting her hands hesitantly find and rest on his exposed hips, praying he wouldn't shy from her touch, Beth kissed his old wounds with soft, timid lips, not because she could ever take the pain away but to thank him for everything he was, everything he was willing to give her, sacrifice for her, even if it was himself. Thank him and show him love because of the man he was for her. Daryl...he didn't pull away; he grabbed her hands, pulled her arms around his hard stomach, needing her close, crossing his arms over hers. Beth's tears came then, pressed to his bare back, cheek against scars ripped into him by the monsters of his past. All the emotion was just too much.
"We ain't our scars, Beth. We ain't our scars." This time, Daryl's voice wasn't trying to hide anything.
He surrendered to emotion, to her love and what little strength she had to give. Daryl's demons ran deep, even deeper than hers, except he loved her enough to share his pain for her sake. He didn't fight at all. These tears...somehow Beth knew they would be the last tears...what else was there to cry for?
She didn't have to think about it, what she whispered against his naked skin. It came out because it was what she knew about him...what she knew to be true. "You're not your scars, Daryl Dixon."
Beth could feel him release a deep breath, his stomach quivering under her hands at the end, and after, the tension melted from his body as he let go. Lifting her head, Beth saw from behind that Daryl's was slightly lowered, and he nodded, maybe not for her, but for himself. She squeezed harder, hugged him tighter, ignoring the ache in her body because pain didn't matter when she was so close to him.
Beth wondered what it took for a man like Daryl, a man who fought more in his life than he was loved, a man who survived because of violence and strength and brutality...what did it take for him to be gentle? Was it a place where he had to go, a thing he had to force himself to do, fightingwhat was really there, or did it just come to him now because he saw she was so vulnerable...because it was what she needed? She couldn't take her shirt off on her own, frozen by the things that still haunted her, and he didn't ask her too either, just moved close, not asking permission, just going there, measuring her responses carefully. So she thought, thought about the way he approached her so slowly, sure in what he was going to do but hesitant in doing it, the gentle way he touched her...thought on Daryl's nature so she could distract herself from the fear that was there no matter how much she loved him, trusted him, or believed him. His hands made full contact with her arms when he pushed her sweater off, maybe just to keep a connection.
She forced herself to nod, having to participate now so he could lift her shirt over her head. Her arms instinctively crossed her stomach, wrapped around her sides, trying to cover the flesh that was still black and blue and purple. This wasn't how it was supposed to be...the first time he undressed her...the first time he looked at her and saw her...this start of their new life together. Beth bowed her head because despite everything he told her, everything he shared, it was still too hard to face him. Capturing her wrists in his massive hands, Daryl drew her arms away from covering her body, baring her in the firelight. She wasn't fighting him, so he freed her, Beth watching him reaching out to touch her...she was prepared not to flinch when he trailed his hand down her side. Beth met his eyes when he stilled his touch, shaggy brown hair falling forward, head dipped down close to her. His eyes, they were riddled with anger...his jaw gone tight again, threatening to shatter, but in those blue pools there was also pain, guilt, hatred...he hated himself. Beth couldn't bear that. Brushing his hair back so he could see her, Beth shook her head no. It was all she had; the words she needed to assure him...she couldn't find.
Going to her tiptoes so she could reach his lips, it was a sad sort of kiss, chalked full of the wrong emotions...grief, guilt...but he responded, his mouth slow and hesitant...questioning...as if he was undeserving, carefully resting his hands on the lowest part of her back. Beth had to do it now before she lost her nerve, turning in his arms, close enough to him that he couldn't see yet, but it was the only way she could do it. Daryl's thumb running along her spine, his calloused fingers traveling down the unblemished side of her back, it sent shivers through her body, but Daryl didn't pull his hand away.
"Does it hurt?"
"Not so much anymore..." Maybe she was just numb to it. But that wasn't true...and she didn't need to be anymore...numb...not now, not with Daryl. She felt it, and it hurt deep inside. She couldn't just be numb. She had to feel it. "Yes...it hurts...in some ways more than others."
Beth's voice wavered, but there were no tears and no lies. Daryl caught a sharp breath like he was feeling it too, that knowing there was pain for her killed him, but he was there for her. He just waited for her to say more, like he knew she needed to, and maybe she did...maybe they both needed it.
"The first cut...it was the deepest..." Beth didn't mean the depth the blade sunk into her flesh but how deeply it scarred her on the inside.
It was easier saying it not having to look at him but able to feel Daryl close behind her.
"I know..."And he was the only one who really could.
"I cried...that first time, I cried. I wasn't used to the pain. I was weak." Beth swallowed hard. Daryl stepped closer, body pressed to hers to offer his comfort. "But after that, I didn't. I embraced it...the pain. It was the only way I could stay who I was...the only way I could even start to be strong."
"You are strong...stronger than anyone should ever have to be." Daryl said it, and Beth knew enough about herself and how hard she fought to be here with him to know there was truth to it.
"Hmmm?" He wrapped a protective arm around her, right below her breasts, pulling her closer into him.
"Please don't lie to me..."
"I ain't a liar, Beth..." he broke her off softly, but she was going to finish.
"...about how horrible what you see is. I know it's bad...and seeing it the first time..."
"It ain't the first time. I already saw."
What? Beth stopped and thought. She didn't remember. It was another missing moment.
"I've had your blood on my hands...I held you, thinking you were dying right there in my arms, and there ain't nothin' I've ever seen in my life that's worse than that, you hear me?" His voice was all gravel, gruff in his declaration.
She didn't have a response, but he was intent on making sure she listened.
"You're perfect, and you say otherwise, you're calling me a liar." Daryl caught her chin between his thumb and fingers, forcing her head around to look up into his intensely serious eyes. "Call me whatever you want, just make sure it's true. There's lots for you to choose from. But don't call me a liar 'cause I ain't."
His words weren't gentle; he was telling her how it was. His mouth wasn't gentle either. Daryl leaned down, catching her lips over her shoulder in the fierceness of the moment, chin still gripped tight in his hand, refusing to let go even though she wouldn't pull away if he did.
Long after they saw to each other's wounds, those that could be bandaged and the wounds that needed a much deeper understanding to even start to heal, they sat silent in front of the campfire watching the flames flicker and dance in the dark, listening to the Whip-poor-wills that hadn't ceased their songs for the winter yet. Daryl spread their blanket on the ground, drawing her down to sit between his legs. He engulfed her from behind, sheltering her with his body, his hard arms crossed so tight around her that Beth felt like no one would ever be able to hurt her again. She felt all the comfort she needed in Daryl's protection, and for Daryl, offering that protection seemed to be his own comfort. How could two people in such a dark and broken world have exactly what the other needed to make breathing worth it? Beth smiled to herself, tasting the sweet, cool air of life filling her lungs.
It's more than worth it, Beth thought, running her hand over Daryl's muscled forearm, feeling the hair stand up on end under her touch.
Daryl pressed his head down into her hair, nuzzling against her neck, letting out a sigh before his breathing returned to its deep, steady rhythm. Beth was so in tune with it's rise and fall against her back. And she'd surrendered...to Daryl, the only one she would ever surrender to. Beth realized that surrendering...letting him see her wounds, sharing her pain...this surrender was the purist form of courage she could ever show.